BUILDING MATERIALS
   Due to the geophysical characteristics of the alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia, the most common building material was clay, in the form of sun-dried mudbrick. This was used for vernacular as well as for monumental structures such as temples, palaces, and city walls. The mud could be tempered with organic substances such as chaff and straw, or sand, although in some areas the natural composition of the soils was such as not to need any tempering. The mudbricks were laid in mud plaster, sometimes with the addition of lime. Bitumen was widely used for damp- and waterproofing in wet rooms and near waterways. Kiln-fired bricks were also primarily used to counteract rising damp and water erosion. Local trees such as the date palmprovided timber for the flat roofs, as well as doorways; for the wider spans in temples and palaces, coniferous hardwood (e.g., cedar) was imported from Syria and the Levant. In the marshy regions of the south, reeds provided the building material for temporary constructions, such as byres, sheds, and simple dwellings.
   Stone, especially limestone, is more commonly found in northern Mesopotamia but did not play a major role in architecture. It was used in Assyria for foundations; engineered structures such as bridges, canals, and quays; and door sills and column bases. Stone slabs lining the lower courses of exterior walls (known as orthostats) could be found in some palaces in northern Syria and Anatolia. This practice was adapted for interior use by the Assyrians, and many of the carved limestone slabs are now displayed in museums around the world. The nomadic peoples of Mesopotamia lived in tents made from the wool of goats and sheep.
   See also ARCHITECTURE.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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